Another anthology of thrilling tales (that is the promise on the front cover) from story teller Jim Algie, a well published author who has traveled the world and has managed to recount the tales from his wanderings.
Phantom Lover (ISBN 978-0-8048-4388-1, Tuttle Publishing, 2013) is his latest anthology. Jim Algie is a long-stay expat who also knows his Thailand. This one was written (published) in 2013 so is relatively current. The back cover lists Algie as being a (former) punk rock musician, a journalist, a wildlife conservationist and a security guard in a lunatic asylum (this does not relate to Thailand, I am led to believe), but Jim Algie can certainly uncover lunacy in this country.
His travel experiences include scuba-diving, rock-climbing, kayaking off the coast of Krabi, learning how to hunt for red ant egg nests (a delicacy in the northeast), and trawling with Thai-Muslim fishermen down south, so he can write with some authority.
Criminal pursuits out of Khaosan Road show that Jim Algie, as well as being well traveled, is also well experienced on both sides of the legal fence. This wrong side of his nature stems back to childhood with shoplifting being in his junior CV.
He has a wonderful appraisal of the psychology of Patpong Road describing it as “an X-rated sideshow if it wasn’t for the presence of all these lonely, desperate men like us, out hunting for some love, affection and understanding that we would never find there.”
He is a good raconteur, and gives the reader wonderful descriptions of the old Thermae. Not that the “new” Thermae is much better, which is one reason Thermae is on everybody’s calling list in Bangkok.
I picked up a literal (which should not happen), calling the painter Francis Bacon, Frances Bacon and should not have slipped by. Next book get a better sub-editor, Jim. Bacon also had a connection with Pattaya with his friend John Edwards living here for some time after he became beneficiary of Bacon’s estate.
He describes the different strata of expat societies, backpackers, package tourists, and resident expats. Some of these were ready to sell their passports and Algie repeats a sign from Khao San, “We buy anything, dodgy or not.”
His description using heroin, “It’s the softest drug in the world and the closest you can come to returning to your mother’s womb, floating in those warm tropical waters with never a worry and nary a doubt intruding.”
He brings out one of the unfortunate sides of Thai education, where students pay others to write their assignments. One of the characters explains this as “That’s not cheating. In business and politics it’s called delegation.”
His essay on abortion shows that he is not quite the ‘hard man’ he would appear on the surface, and his item on his cat White Fang is educational as well as being an enjoyable read. I, for one, did not know that Thais call them Little Monks, and having had a cat that was “mine”, or was I his, I wonder?
The RRP is B. 525 and it is another good read from Algie.